The NFL And ESPN’s Ratings Are About To Get A Whole Lot Worse

National Football League commissioner, Roger Goodell announced on Wednesday protests (aka “taking a knee”) during the national anthem, in concert with the flag ceremony, will no longer be allowed. It’s now league policy and will be incorporated into the “Game Operation Manuals.”

Here’s my first thoughts or impression: Too little, too late, and its about to get bigger, and in ways, that’ll bring both the NFL™, along with its now socially active cheering squad known as ESPN™, to their own knees. For if these entities truly believe the ratings collapse will now be abated, I have a feeling the worst is far from behind them. This policy may in-effect exasperate the issue and here’s why…

When it comes to the issue about why players were, or were not, engaging in the “kneeling” dilemma is not what I’m speaking to here. That is for you to discern. What I’m addressing here is the business aspect of it all. And what it may, or may not do to the brands, viewership, and more. Along with exacerbating the very survival of these franchises. Because, whether one agrees, or not with what is the genesis of it all, one thing is certain: Tick-off enough customers – and you’ll have no business to worry about in the future.

And that “tick-off” may have just begun.

The issues at hand are numerous. The first, and most troubling, is the fact in which the NFL and its commissioner had the power (as well as right) to stop political protests in the beginning. This should have been the initial reaction and put into place by games end, that day, after Mr Kaepernick’s protest. Period, full stop. Here’s the reasoning…

Colin Kaepernick, whether one agrees with his views or not, made it immediately and absolutely clear: the reason for his “kneel” was for political reasons. In other words, what he was protesting had nothing to do with his work environment, employers, or any other such facet.

No, what Colin (I’m using the familiar only for ease) did was to hijack both his employers venue, along with thrusting not only his employers, but his team-mates et al. into the political spotlight on a mass scale, with even brighter lights! Where customers (aka fans) may, or may not, have opposing views, which in-turn, could or would denigrate its brand, ticketing or viewership potential, along with advertising revenue or metrics, in a negative fashion. Or even worse, all at the same time and with immediacy.

The latter is precisely what happened. And it kept getting worse, much worse. And guess who appeared oblivious too it all? Hint: The “Commish”

I wrote an article in 2015, nearly one year to the day, before the initial  “kneeling” took place. My article was directed squarely at the current meme of the day circulating across Wall Street that ESPN™ was losing subscribers mainly due to the “cutting the cord” effect.

What I proposed back then was that ESPN was losing numbers in direct proportion to how much politics it was now inserting into its broadcast, and was turning off subscribers in droves.

At that time this was met with the usual “just doesn’t understand” type refutals by many a next-in-rotation fund-manager across the mainstream business/financial media. Here’s a bit from that article to show my reasoning. To wit:

“Why wouldn’t ESPN™ (or Disney™ its parent company) go to great efforts to include or push the narrative that “cord cutting” doesn’t necessarily mean “all” that cut have tuned off? In other words: why aren’t numbers from alternative viewing sources highlighted as to show they might not be viewing there – but they are over here? Unless – they aren’t.”

“ESPN (like a few notable others such as NBC™) has seemingly transformed at near hyper-speed from sports reporting – to political sports reporting. The political edge now rampant throughout the shows, games, interviews, et al is overbearing, overburdening, and overdone.”

Then, one year later, Colin Kaepernick turned the playing field into a ESPN programming venue for everything political.

Was it any stretch to think this was not inevitable from a business perspective? Did the NFL not look at ESPN’s dwindling view-ship numbers and conclude what was going on, and the reasons for it? The only thing worse was that they did, and decided to wait to forge a response after the fact.

That is/was a failure of leadership and rests firmly at the doorstep of Mr. Goodell. For if one looks squarely at not only his public responses (or lack of), but his actual initiatives to deal with these current political dilemmas – he was the root problem – and he should have been fired the moment he did not squelch all this strongly and vociferously, from day one. And I said so.

Yet, what did the owners of the NFL do? They extended his contract and paid him even more!

That decision is going to cost the NFL dearly. For what they did with resigning him was to now enshrine the political into the venue, and the reasoning is simple: Mr. Goodell seems to have made it his quest, or prerogative, to involve more political organizations into the venue, first rather, than deal with any issues from a business perspective, first.

How’s that all working out? Tanking ratings, more disgruntled fans, embarrassingly so empty stadiums, et cetera, et cetera. All this while the “play calling” across ESPN is solely about how this, or that, fits into a “political game” of X’s and O’s.

It’s now not uncommon for many to question if the pundits are even watching the actual games. Yes, it’s now that in-your-face.

This new ruling will not make the situation any better in my estimation, in fact, I believe it will exacerbate the issue even more all around, for this reason:

Once you allow for the political – it’s like the proverbial “camel’s nose under the tent.” And these new rules just alter the way the “political game” will now be played on the field, which will be even more in-your-face, or lack of them. And if one believes a “solving” of this measure is by allowing players to stay in “the locker room during the anthem.” I have news for you…

ESPN will take that “locker room” time and turn it into “prime time political football” so fast it will make the wide receivers jealous.

However, with all the above said, there has been one issue resolved in all this, which makes any further disintegration from here-on-in of either brand, or franchise abundantly clear.

All blame can now be laid directly, and solely at the owners feet. For they had the opportunity, on more than one occasion, to end all this from a business perspective from the beginning.

And they punted.

© 2018 Mark St.Cyr